Attorney Joseph Hobika Sr., a longtime legal counsel for the City of Utica who also was a former member and president of the Utica City School District Board of Education, died Wednesday. He was 84.
Hobika died from cancer, his son Luke Hobika said.
Hobika Sr. was appointed attorney of the Urban Renewal Agency in 1956 and counseled several mayoral administrations from the 1960s to the present.
The Utica Common Council recognized Hobika with a moment of silence Wednesday. Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri said Hobika's knowledge and experience was very valuable, calling a “safety net" for City Hall — one of two along with Budget Director Peter Fiorillo, who died in May.
“I can’t speak highly enough about him," Palmieri said. "Sometimes he spoke to me as a son. We lost an institutional person that really loved the city, but also knew the city. He was able to enlighten me on how to get to the next level.”
Hobika practiced law in Utica since 1956 and was a partner in the Hobika Law Firm on Genesee Street.
He served three terms on the school board until 1989 and was elected multiple times as board president.
“Mr. Hobika also successfully implemented the plan to desegregate the Utica City School District and succeeded in racially balancing the schools of the district," according to a statement from Hobika's family.
Hobika served in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps as a captain and a chief legal officer for the 414th Civil Affairs Company. Joseph Hobika Jr. said his father was called into active service in 1962 during the Bay of Pigs.
A graduate from Utica College, Hobika received his law degree from Syracuse University. His community service included tenures as chair of the Utica Industrial Development Agency for over 20 years, counselor for the ARC, Oneida-Lewis chapter and memberships with the Oneida County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association.
He had seven children with his wife, Madeline, who died in 2013.
“Mr. Hobika loved the city of Utica and believed in its people and its leaders and always took the extra step to help make the city of Utica a better place to live,” the family’s statement read.
Contact reporter Greg Mason at 315-792-5074 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_Mason).